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“Well It Worked, Didn’t It?”

by David Brock on June 24th, 2012

I’m constantly amazed by the misrepresentations, lies, and trickery sales people use to reach a customer–either to get a customer to answer the phone or to arrange a meeting.  Every time, I think I know all the approaches and can protect myself from the offending sales person, someone gets through my defenses and with some sort of new trick.

Not long ago, I got an email from a sales person asking for a few minutes of my time.  I decided to speak with him, primarily because in his email he said, “I was speaking to Mr. So and So, and he said I should really talk to you, that you would be very interested in speaking with me.”    Turns out Mr. So and So (I just call him So) is a very close friend.  He used to work for me a number of years ago, and we continue to find excuses to work together.

The appointed time came, when he called I asked, “How do you know Mr. So and So?  What work have you done with him?”  There was a short pause, and the sales person responded, “Well, I really don’t know Mr. So and So, but I’d like to talk to you about………..”

“Hold on, I said, you mean you lied to me about your relationship with So to get me to accept a call?”

Without a beat, the sales person responded, “Well it worked, didn’t it?”

Normally not at a loss for words, I was stunned for a moment.  The sales person was caught in an obvious lie, and didn’t seem chagrined or concerned about it.  He had the audacity to rationalize his lie with “Well it worked, didn’t it?”  (Haven’t I hread something about the end justifying the means?)

I couldn’t help myself, rather than hanging up, I decided to go into attack mode, I kept speaking with him. 

I responded, “Well, I’m not sure, it depends what your objective is.  What are you trying to achieve?”

This took the sales person back for a moment, “Well I’m trying to reach people to pitch my products and get you to them.”

I decided to break things down a little (I really am a jerk when you get down to it), I asked, “Let me understand better, was your objective to get people to answer the phone and have a conversation with you or was your objective to find customers that might want to buy your product and engage them in a conversation to buy–ultimately getting an order?”

Poor guy was getting a little frustrated, he had lost control, all he wanted to do was pitch his product.  He stuttered, “Well I have to get people on the phone first, then I want to try to sell my product.”

So I asked, “So is that working now?”

He replied quickly, “If you give me the chance to talk, I can explain my product to you.”

I interupted him, “Did you come up with this prospecting technique yourself or is this something your management has asked you to do?”

“We all do it, our managers tell us to do whatever it takes to get someone on the phone,” he replied.  I could tell he saw recognized his prospects were plummeting and I was just taking his time.

Anticipating that we were coming to the end of our call, I asked again.  “You said your approach to me worked. all I want to know is, Did you achieve your objective?”

He was pissed at me, so he flared up, “Well I got you on the phone didn’t I?

I responded, “You are absolutely right, if your objective was to get me on the phone you achieved that.  But you told me you were trying to find customers that would be interested in buying from you.  Do you think your approach allows you to achieve that objective?”

He must have gotten a second wind, I do give him credit for audacity, he replied, “Well I have you on the phone, if you just give me a chance to tell you about my product, I’m sure I could get you to buy.”

I stopped him.  “No, it’s pointless to continue.  You lied to me to get me on the phone.  You could never sell me anything because our short relationship was based on your attempts to deceive me–so you haven’t accomplished your objective and your approach reallydidn’t work.  Presumably you don’t get paid if I pick up the phone and answer your call.  You only get paid if I buy.  So you have failed miserably.”

Well the conversation stopped.

His approach while a little more extreme than other approaches I’ve encountered, unfortunately is far too common.  Sales people–being mis-directed by their managers or some so called sales guru employ whatever techniques possible to get someone to answer a phone and engage in a conversation.  They feel a flush of success (and probably pay the “guru”) based on getting people to answer the phone.  They rationalize their tricks with the excuse, “Well it worked, didn’t it?”

Somehow, they miss the point.  For sales, the goal isn’t  to get someone to answer the phone.  The goal is to find and interest customers in what you are selling.  Their approach never achieves that goal.

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  1. Crazy story, Dave.

    I may actually be a bigger jerk, when you come right down to it. I’ve been critiquing telemarketer/prospecting calls, at home and work, for years. My goal is to get them to hang up on me. I usually start by objecting, seeing what they say, and then segueing into a review of their approach and techniques. It usually works (getting them to hang up), but not before we get through the litany of unbelievably stale sales training cliches, that I still can’t believe hang around.
    – You don’t want to find a way to save money?
    – I understand how you feel, Mr. Kunkle. A lot of my… (feel, felt, found)
    – Not interested? Of course not, Mr. Kunkle. How could you be. I haven’t even had a chance to tell you about…
    – Blah, blah, blah

    Interestingly, the B2C calls at home usually are filled with more of this. And although the training those callers got was crappy, at least they were trained. The B2B calls at work are much more haphazard. Occasionally someone will call who is quite subtle and skilled, but usually, they are clueless and as blunt as your caller. On the bright side, not many turn out to be such admitted liars. Charlie Green could use this one as a case study on how NOT to be a trusted advisor.

    By the way, run a grammar/spell-check, Mr. Brock. You and I share a trait of not editing our posts well enough. I am a notoriously good editor of OTHER people’s work. 😉 Everybody needs to have *some* talent, I guess.


    • Thanks for the comment Mike! Sorry about the spelling/grammar errors. It’s terribly embarassing after having written a long blog about this a few weeks ago.

    • This is great. Mike and Dave, it is funny to have professional insight on how to make a “professional” sale. Almost provides us with the responsibility to critique the unknowing salesmen. Provides outlook on what not to do as a sales professional… and furthermore provides us with blog content 🙂 Thanks for the great read David! And love the comment Mike

  2. Good information. Wraps up how stubborn, hypocritical and selfish people are. That’s why I don’t bother cold calling. I enjoy helping people, but my time as a Marine has grown a disgust for civilian attitudes and respect. If I have solicited my product, developed a need, and they have not showed an ounce of interest, then I keep it movin’. Semper fidelis.

    • Andrew: Thanks for the comment, though I don’t think this is an argument against cold calling or prospecting. It’s more about doing the right research, being prepared, and executing precisely. (Which every Marine learns in Boot Camp). The shortcuts and deceptions don’t work. Those who use them are not sales professionals, they are merely hacks.

  3. David – Thanks for sharing and reaffirms why the first action I take with any client is to review or establish written positive core values.

    Maybe it is me, but there appears to be a lot more desperation out there within the small business community specific to securing sales.

    I too sometimes accept those types of calls just to appreciate how not to interact with a potential customer.

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

    • Thanks for the comment–this desperation isn’t just limited to small companies. Large and small alike, many resort to simply bad practice in prospecting.

      I had actually accepted this call because the guy referenced someone I really respect, and I had interest in his solution. I was actually a potential buyer, but he lost the opportunity forever. I will never buy from him–from his company. I will actively advocate that people don’t buy from this company because of their deceptive practices.

      These things always backfire. Yet so many individuals and organizations pursue them, not realizing the negative impact.

  4. Many of us have been working for years with sales organisations to get them to work in a consultative manner with their clients and coach their salespeople to achieve better results. What we overlook from our lofty world is that probably the great majority of salespeople still work for high pressure, minimal training, no coaching, no support, hire and fire organisations. No wonder they do whatever they can and think “Well it worked, didn’t it?”.

    In some ways it’s extremely depressing to see we still have so much work to do. Maybe next time we all receive a call like that we should try a bit of coaching, so the next prospect gets a better outcome.

    Terry hood

    • Terry, thanks for the comment. Likewise, I’m very proud of being a sales professional and the value we can create in working with customers. It is disappointing to see these hacks (individuals and organizations) take down the whole community.

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